The Big Ten is having one of the most memorable basketball seasons we’ve seen in some time. The conference leads the country with five top-25 teams and ranks number one in the RPI/Sagarin ratings.
Not sure anyone, but Head Coach Tom Crean saw this one coming. The Hoosiers are ranked #20th in both polls and have a 17-7 record with wins over big-dawgs Kentucky and Ohio State. Yeah, they may 5-5 in the conference, but not even the Buckeyes are running away with the Big Ten title.
This Hoosiers team is nothing like you’ve seen the past few years, mostly because they can fill up the scoreboard. Just ask the Hawkeyes who yielded 103 points to the Hoosiers in a loss this past weekend. Indiana leads the conference with a robust 79.5 points per game.
2.) Big Ten is the Best Conference in the Country
From top to the bottom, the Big Ten has been the most competitive conference in the nation. Only the Big Ten has six teams with 16 or more wins and nine teams with an RPI in the top 51. Moreover, the Big Ten is the only conference in America to have each and every one of it’s teams ranked in the top 131 in RPI.
This should bode well for the conference come tourney time, meaning the Big Ten will most likely see eight or nine teams go dancing.
3.) Draymond Green for Player of the Year
Everyone’s player of the year in the preseason was Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger. No disrespect to Sully, but Green has been better. Green has eleven double-doubles to Sullinger’s nine and has been instrumental in helping the Spartans reach the top ten in both polls. He also has 14 games of double-digit rebounds to Sullinger’s nine. Granted Sullinger hasn’t been healthy all season, that’s more of a reason to give Green the award at the end of the season.
Mark your calenders for February 11th because it marks the first meeting between Green and Sullinger when the Spartans travel to Columbus.
4.) Cody Zeller is No Boy, But Rather a Man
Who knew Zeller would have this much of an impact when he committed to play in Bloomington? He’s no doubt the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Year, but more importantly he’s the key to the Hoosiers resurgence in 2012 (see story one). His inside game has opened it up for the Hoosiers sharpshooters on the perimeter.
He’s rough around the edges and can definitely improve on the defensive end, but what else can you expect out of a freshman. If Zeller decides to stay around another year or two, he will be the talk of the conference for some time to come.
5.) Conference Title Still Up for Grabs
What makes Big Ten basketball even more exciting is the fact that four or five teams are still in the mix for the conference title. While the Buckeyes appear to be the cream of the crop, they are not invincible, evident from their two road losses at Illinois and Indiana. They have another tough road venture when they travel to Wisconsin this weekend to take on the Badgers who sit just one game back in the standings. Michigan State is only a half game back from the Buckeyes while Michigan is a full game back. For these four teams, a strong finish in the conference could mean a number one or two seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Honorable Mention: Could this be the year that Northwestern Goes Dancing?, Minnesota’s Mbakwe Out for the Year, Badgers Do it On Defense Again
What do you think of these story-lines in the Big Ten this season? Did I miss something significant? Let me know by commenting below!
Nick Grays is a senior writer at the Sports Bank where he covers the Wisconsin Badgers, Green Bay Packers, and Milwaukee Brewers. He also enjoys to share Fantasy Advice from time-to-time. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here or visit his blog Nick Knows Best.
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